Monday, August 1, 2005

The Litigious Society...

Click the Picture to get in on the Ground Floor

First of all, I have to preface this, by saying that I am sure that what I am about to write about is not universal, yet. This is not the case 'everywhere'; however, I believe that it will eventually become the standard everywhere, at least in the United States.

If you live in Wichita, Kansas, or Boise Idaho, this probably won't make a lot of sense to you, because the cancer has yet to creep that far north. But let me give you a little glimpse of the litigious society that is slowly taking over your world and WILL be a part of your future.

The moral and legal systems of this country are being taken over by attorneys. These people do not 'practice' law. They practice making money, anyway they can. There once was a time when jurisprudence was considered to be a sort of holy art, like being a doctor or a member of the clergy. Lawyers were well paid, but were also expected to uphold the best interest of the society in which they practiced. Well, you can kiss those days goodbye folks.

Here in Phoenix, Arizona, we have the distinction of being the home of one particular lawyer, who is still practicing law. His law firm is named Van Osteen. He is the lawyer who took lawyers right to 'advertise' all the way to the US Supreme Court... and won.

You may not have seen the affect of this 10-year-old decision yet, but you will. If you ever pass through Phoenix, Arizona (or worse yet, you actually move here), you will notice something a bit out of the ordinary. There are advertisements for attorneys everywhere. On billboards, the sides of buses, bus stop benches, and the backs of phone books. Plaintiff Attorneys (the ones that get 33% of any injury settlement that you receive) actually fight over billboard space at the most accident prone intersections in this town.

The concept being, that if you get rear-ended, they want you to get out of your vehicle and see that great big 60' X 20' sign screaming "Jacoby & Meyers - Injury Lawyers". You will whip out your cell phone, dial the number, and they will come to the accident scene, no joke.

I know what you are thinking. You are probably saying; "You must have been screwed over by one of these guys, and you are pissed". Well, not really, I used to work with them. 15 years in insurance claims and investigations showed me just what a creepy crawly bunch of folks these are.

If you live here, you quickly learn that they have to advertise, because there is sooo much competition for the poor wounded victim in this town. So the early bird gets the worm. Phoenix has no mass transit, small freeways and way too many automobiles.....those poor lemmings rushing off to work, or to pick up their crystal meth fix are just bound to slam into one another. And when they do...Cha-Ching....there is money to be had by someone.

Forget right or wrong or who was at fault or who might be injured. 33% of insurance policy limits is a minimum of $5,000 in Arizona. Not a bad profit for making 3 phone calls and sending a letter, which is all most attorneys do.

The quickest way to see two attorneys drop a case and run, is when both drivers get into an accident, rush out to retain counsel and then the attorney's find out that both clients were un-insured. Can't collect if there are no deep pockets....

[ring ... ring ... ring]

Boye, Dewy, Skrum & Howe Law Offices....may we help you? What's that?

You weren't at fault? (Excellent!)

You are injured? (Even better!!)

Your life is ruined? (I can afford that new Mercedes!!!)

Nobody paid their liability insurance premium? (Hey, screw you pal. 33% of nothing is nothing....we are out of here.)

So much for guarding the public trust, pro-bono work does not pay the bills.

As in all fundamental shifts in societal structure, this 'greed' of law has made a change in the public mindset. If all you see is media (TV, Radio, Billboards) proclaiming that you are entitled to the BIG BUCKS because someone runs over your toe, then everyone becomes injured, regardless if they are or not. I tend to call this the "why haven't I won the lottery yet?" mindset. This has also brought forth the 'perpetual victim' here in Phoenix. That person that takes no responsibility for anything they do and expects to collect from others because of their lot in life. If there is insurance involved, there aren't too many lawyers in this town that are going to dissuade you from being a 'victim'. Those folks that are drama queens or drama kings just love attorneys for this reason. They get attention AND money....yeee hawww!!!

The con-artist that slipped the finger in the bowl of Wendy's chili was one of these people. She had a long history of ding the con and being the drama queen. She knew where the deep pockets were. She has been a 'victim' for years. She probably has a diploma from Victim University. She just reached a little too far for the brass ring and fell off the litigation-go-round. Maybe she should have just gone with the fingernail.

This brings up another important point, which is the concept of pain for money. Lawyers love this. Pain is so 'intangible' and money is sooo tangible. Measuring pain is smoke and mirrors, money is countable. When smoke and mirrors produce countable cash... attorneys will be there. I can scream and contort on the floor and look like I am being hit by a Tazer, but you really don't know if there is any pain involved. But it sure looks like there is.

Since plaintiff attorneys get money for your pain, it makes little sense for you to be only marginally hurt. If someone runs over your toe (even if you are wearing steel tipped work boots), you are permanently injured for life around here.

That is why the minimum limits death claim is so frustrating to an attorney. If you have minimum limits in this state ($15,000) and you kill someone (say a drunk passed out in the street that you run over), all they can collect for the dead drunk's disenfranchised daughter is the $15,000. From that, the poor attorney only gets to pocket the 33%, which is $5,000. If you ONLY had $100,000 policy limits, they could get that (cha-ching) $33,000 paycheck.

Come on folks, it is only another $45 a year on your insurance premium. Help an attorney out here. Up your limits and then kill someone. Whether or not the drunk's life was worth the settlement is irrelevant. Hell, he could have been dead already, but you ran him over, so it does not really matter. Can’t prove he “didn’t” suffer!

It is amazing how much more an injury is worth if there are just some deep pockets to go along with it. Sure the plaintiff attorneys could go after someone's assets if they don't have insurance, but most law firms work on the short term. Two years is OK to collect $15,000 or so. But invest billable hours and wait five years to get a portion of someone's slum house in Phoenix? I don't think so. Fast cash is the name of the game in the Phoenix legal arena.

But of course, if you already have the BIG bucks, you can always BUY the law. O.J. did it. Michael Jackson did it. Ken Lay tried to do it (bad idea Ken, should have skipped the country). Martha Stewart...well, Martha just wasn't as bright as we thought she was, she should have brought the jury some cookies.

The end result in all this, is that you have to 'prove the truth' in today's legal system. You don't have to prove the 'guilt'. We are supposed to be presumed innocent, but that is not the case. If someone runs over your toe, the system has to prove you are not injured; the public perception (by default) is you are. It is not worth the defense's (insurance companies) time or money to defend the insured on moral principles, so they just pay out the money and move on. After all, just like the attorney's, the insurance companies are here to make money. Not to do what is 'right'.

In the insurance world, the 'premium' is the thing... not the settlement check. Regardless of what the Good-Hands people tell you.

In summation, your honor; there are laws and then there are laws. There are the laws of physics, which are universal. If it happens here on earth, it has to happen on Cygnus. However, monetary trends govern the laws of jurisprudence. And the ebb and flow of money is not universal. Sometimes societies have it and sometimes they don't.

The laws of jurisprudence are molded to fit the current trends in society. The current trend is the short-term greed of the populace. So the system that we were thought would protect the innocent and prove the guilt of the law breakers has morphed into a money machine that only benefits those that have the ability to wield it, and those with the lack of morals to abuse it.

Get ready Minot, North Dakota. The lawyers are coming.

Now...I have to go put my foot underneath someone's tire....I have a mortgage payment to make.

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